Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Op-Ed in Local Paper Today as We Move Toward Trial on Feb 1-2

Below is an Op-Ed I submitted to our local newspaper in the Midcoast of Maine called The Times Record.  Our local peace group has had a running bi-monthly spot on the editorial page for several years.  Lately the editor has told us we could only write about local issues which makes it rather hard for a peace group to address foreign policy concerns.  Clearly the paper is censoring us and likely because of the presence of Bath Iron Works in our community where Navy destroyers are built.  Below I've italicized the first paragraph (and one other place) in the Op-Ed that was cut out by the editor as it was printed in the paper today. Other writers from PeaceWorks have lately had entire Op-Eds rejected from the 'Opinion' section of the paper.

Meet the Zumwalt 12 As We Head Toward Trial

I wrote this while on a plane returning home from a week long trip to Okinawa with 30 other American peace workers.  We were there to support 85% of the people of Okinawa who are actively opposing two environmentally destructive US military base expansions on their besieged island home where the US now has 32 bases.
My mind though is also on the upcoming appearance of the Zumwalt 12 before the Sagadahoc County Superior Court (752 High Street in Bath) on February 1-2 at 9:00 am for our jury trial after having been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works (BIW) on June 18, 2016.  On that occasion we sat in the middle of Washington Street near one of the gates where people attending the ‘christening’ of a new Zumwalt ‘stealth’ destroyer were entering.

We sat in the road for about 10 minutes before the Bath Police Department (PD) arrested us and charged us with ‘Obstructing a Public Way’.  We were taken to the Bath PD station and processed and released with a date for an arraignment.  As we were leaving the PD station one of the policemen told one in our group, “You people are the conscience of the community.”

It is indeed conscience that motivated us as we see a collapsing US military empire, in massive debt, now recklessly invading and killing legions of innocent civilians around the planet – mostly on behalf of fossil fuel corporations who want to get their hands on declining supplies of oil and natural gas in the Middle East, Central Asia and on the African continent.

In particular the Zumwalt destroyer, costing more than $4 billion each (the standard Aegis destroyers built at BIW have been costing about $1.3 billion) will be used to sneak up on China’s coast and blast them with new electro-magnetic rail guns that can fire a shell the distance between Philadelphia and New York City.  (You may have heard that each shell costs $800,000 and the Navy does not have the funds to supply the Zumwalt with the expensive ammunition.)

What happened to all the fiscal conservatives who are concerned about the national debt as well as waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon?  Where are the voices of Maine’s congressional delegation?  The truth is that Collins, King and Pingree are eager to grab every dollar they can for our state just like every other politician in the land.

I’d like to introduce a few of the Zumwalt 12, who are mostly senior citizens, so that people in the MidCoast can get a feel for the people who were arrested on June 18 at BIW.

I grew up in an Air Force family and joined the Air Force myself in 1971 during the Vietnam War.  It was there that I became a peace activist – quite a transformation for a kid who in 1968 at the age of 16 was Vice-Chair of the Okaloosa County, Florida Young Republican Club volunteering for the Nixon for President Campaign.  I am a member of Veterans For Peace (VFP).

Dud Hendrick (74), a Deer Isle resident, was a Naval Academy graduate at Annapolis, an All-American lacrosse player for Navy and volunteered to serve in Vietnam.  Dud is also a member of VFP.

Connie Jenkins (68) lives in Orono and is a retired nurse practitioner and psychotherapist.  She is a devout Catholic who is inspired by the calls from Pope Francis to end war.  She is a member of Pax Christi Maine.

Former Catholic nun Joan Peck (69) from Brunswick is a retired Social Worker.  Her husband John Peck (75) registered as a Conscientious Objector during Vietnam and became a professor of English at Princeton, Mount Holyoke, and Skidmore.

Highly regarded Maine artist Russell Wray (61) from Hancock is co-founder of Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST) and holds deep affection for sea mammals that are continually mortally wounded by Navy sonar.

Another in our group is Richard Brown Lethem (84) from Bath.  He is a nationally recognized artist, retired university professor, a veteran and Quaker peace activist.

The youngest person in the Zumwalt 12 is Jason Rawn (42) from Camden.  He is a former healthcare worker and high school teacher and presently paints houses and engages in war tax resistance.

One could say that we are all pretty average Americans with a deep belief in the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees our right to peacefully assemble in order to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.  We have some serious grievances with Washington’s foreign and military policy and have repeatedly tried to bring these concerns to Congress and the public.  We were compelled to act on June 18 by conscience and a strong belief in the people’s role in creating democracy.

Our trial might land us in jail or with serious fines but we feel we had few other alternatives.  We are worried that America is rushing headlong into a war with China and Russia as we currently encircle both those nations with our mega-military machine that is oriented for offense rather than the defense of our own shores.

We humbly speak out trying to honor the best traditions in America and pray the public will hear our pleas for peace.

- Bruce K. Gagnon is a member of PeaceWorks and lives in Bath, Maine   


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